Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

What is the best sign-up strategy now for someone with NO American Express cards?

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This is Part 2 of our discussion on changes to the personal American Express card sign-up bonuses.  The main article is here.

This article was updated on 16th April to reflect changes in some sign-up bonus levels.

Despite these massive changes, the good news is that it is still possible for a couple, starting from scratch with American Express, to earn 130,000 Avios fairly quickly between them.

For most Head for Points readers who are NOT starting from scratch with American Express, you are where you are.  Your activity with American Express over the past 24 months will determine what you can do going forward.  There is nothing you can do to change it.

Even if you cancel all of your existing American Express cards today, you will need to wait 24 months before you can start on the strategies below.

The only exception is if you qualify for an American Express Gold Business or American Express Platinum Business card.  You would be able to apply for those after a gap of just six months from when you cancelled your previous American Express Membership Rewards-earning card.

If you run a small business, there is still flexibility to earn regular sign-up bonuses by focusing on Gold Business and Platinum Business.

If I have not had a personal American Express card before, what should I do?

If you have not held a personal American Express card in the previous two years, you now need to use some strategic thinking.

(Note that MBNA and Lloyds Bank-issued American Express cards do not count in terms of ‘have you had an Amex?’.  We are only discussing cards issued directly by American Express.)

As far as I can work it out, here are three strategies which will allow you to earn more than one bonus on a personal American Express within a 24 month period.

Strategy One:

First card:  anything except a British Airways or British Airways Premium Plus – I recommend Preferred Rewards Gold (10,000 Membership Rewards points) but you could also get The Platinum Card (30,000 Membership Rewards points), Starwood Preferred Guest (30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points), Nectar (20,000 Nectar points), American Express Rewards (up to 10,000 Membership Rewards points), Platinum Cashback or Platinum Cashback Everyday

Second card:  the British Airways Premium Plus card (25,000 Avios) – because the only restriction on getting this is if you have held either of the two British Airways American Express cards in the previous 24 months

The reason for the order here is that if you got British Airways Premium Plus first then you would block yourself from all of the cards in the first list, except for The Platinum Card.

Strategy Two:

First card: anything except a card earning Membership Rewards points – you are allowed a British Airways American Express, British Airways American Express Premium Plus, Starwood Preferred Guest, Nectar, Platinum Cashback or Platinum Cashback Everyday

Second card:  The Platinum Card (30,000 Membership Rewards points) – because the only restriction on getting this is if you have held another Membership Rewards-earning card (Preferred Rewards Gold, American Express Rewards, Green) in the previous 24 months

The reason for the order here is that if you got The Platinum Card first you would block yourself from the cards in list one (apart from British Airways Premium Plus).

Strategy Three:

This is the ONLY way to get three cards with sign-up bonuses quickly:

First card:  Starwood Preferred Guest (30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) or Nectar (20,000 Nectar points) or Platinum Cashback or Platinum Cashback Everyday

Second and third cards (order unimportant):  The Platinum Card (30,000 Membership Rewards points) – because because the only restriction on getting this is if you have held another Membership Rewards-earning card (Preferred Rewards Gold, American Express Rewards, Green) in the previous 24 months and the British Airways Premium Plus card (25,000 Avios) – because the only restriction on getting this is if you have held either British Airways American Express card in the previous 24 months

The reason for the order here is that as soon as you get The Platinum Card or the British Airways Premium Plus card, you block yourself from all of the bonuses in the first list.

Different strategies apply if you qualify for Gold Business or Platinum Business as they can still be cancelled and reopened every six months.

Strategy Three is the most valuable option

Under the new rules, if you had not previously had a personal American Express card, you can get virtually back-to-back:

30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points from the Starwood American Express or 20,000 Nectar points

plus

30,000 Membership Rewards points from The Platinum Card 

plus

25,000 Avios from the British Airways Premium Plus card

If you converted the 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points into 10,000 Avios and the 30,000 Membership Rewards points into 30,000 Avios, you would have earned 65,000 Avios fairly quickly from sign-up bonuses.

Don’t forget your partner in all of this

Even if YOU no longer qualify for bonuses in the medium term, think about your partner.  What has he/she had and what does he/she still qualify for?

You can double up on the bonuses above.

Even with the strict new rules, a couple (where neither has had a personal American Express card in the previous 24 months) could earn 130,000 Avios between them fairly quickly if each follows Strategy Three above.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – January 2021 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our January 2021 recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here.

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these:

American Express Business Gold card

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

Earn both Avios and BA On Business points with your business spending Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

Comments (126)

  • Harry says:

    I cancelled my BAPP this Jan 2019 once I got the 2 for 1 voucher. When does the counter for £10k spend start again? Can I apply for the card now and start spending towards the 2 for 1?

    • John says:

      If you make a completely new application for the card then obviously you just have to spend £10000 on the new card. If you switched to the free card and want to switch back to the BAPP then it may be different, but should say on the Amex site.

      • TheSkintTraveller says:

        Can you switch from BAPP to free ba card, then back again to BAPP from the ba free card?

        • Rob says:

          Yes – you keep the same membership year and your card spend to date carries over.

  • George says:

    OT but no bits – things were a bit mad yesterday so I thought I’d keep it for today. Flying Star Al out of T2 today – any recommendations for best lounge? Flying J, have platinum and PP. Thanks all!

  • Jay says:

    OT – Is American Express The Vacation Collection and Crafted Journeys a new platinum benefit? Never heard of them before

  • david says:

    Hello guys. Going for Amex Rewards Gold. 2 questions please.

    1) How long does the lounge passes take to arrive from when you first sign up?
    2) Can you balance transfer an amount from Gold to another provider say Halifax Credit Card?

    • Jay says:

      1) I think a week or so from memory
      2) My partner has done to Barclaycard no problem

    • Spurs Debs says:

      Tesco credit card won’t accept transfers from Amex.

      • Spurs Debs says:

        And if you transfer to Hsbc card put 00 in front of Amex account number.

  • Amit says:

    Unless I’m missing something, it’s not clear if you can have the two cards (Strategy 1) at the same time or if they have to be sequential (close one, open next). Please could you clarify? Thanks!

  • Vee says:

    Does a referee still get points for a new applicant or has that also changed,

  • adam pospisil says:

    I just got my basic American Express card activated yesterday, in regards to the last option if I quickly just apply for the other two cards I will still get a bonus or what is the best option to do I I am currently 19 🙂

  • adam pospisil says:

    One more question Are avois points transferable if I refer my mum and she get the bonus points can she send them to me and if so how much is the fee and any other information please

    • Rob says:

      The fee makes it pointless.

      Better to simply form a BA household account with your Mum so your Avios are pooled for free.